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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Write With Me: The Two Mueses of the Morning

Do you work at home? What is your schedule?

Early morning is when both muses visit me, imploring me to look outside. Whatcha planning? A walk? Revising? Dinner? Lunch? Cleaning that pile of dishes? Organizing? Emailing? Planning those classes that are coming up this week? Anything? At all? They mutter, most judgementally.

I try to keep in mind that they are in my mind. :) That I am in charge of me.

Life can be full of so many choices. It can be overwhelming.

What works for you? What gets you through your day?

For me its little moments.

Like stepping outside to see what nature is up to today. Is the hawk back? Is that a bluebird? Filling the bird feeder. Picking chives from the garden. Finding wild onions behind the wood-fired oven. How are the shitake mushroom logs doing?

And a favorite way to reset my brain is by smelling flowers, whatever is blooming around C'est si Bon! Even in February we have winter honeysuckle and daphne odora.

In May we have fragrant red, yellow (our Julia Child rose was a gift from Aileen, and its my fave!) pink, and coral roses ready for sniffing.

And nibbling! Have you ever eaten a rose? Would you?

Roses (that have not been sprayed!) add a sweetness to a salad. Or divine added to this stove-top omelette. Which honestly only takes minutes to prepare. Honestly. That will reset your mouth and your brain.

Goat cheese, chevre in French, is such a delightful and perfect cheese; soft and creamy, a perfect foil for the salty crunch of nuts or a crust made with semolina. 

In and around Carrboro we have Celebrity Dairy and Prodigal Farm for locally made chevre of all kinds. Aged and fresh: from crottin to brie and blue.

But we still need a little moment to refresh oursleves for the afternoon, right? How about this omelette that combines sweet orange and almonds in a savory dish? This was quite common during the 16th Century, and I think it makes a great little dish, today. Yes! Right now.

What is your favorite chevre recipe?


Roses on a Paris Street
Omelette with Orange Marmalade and Almonds

For two:

1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 teaspoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, sprinkle of ground cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon half and half
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon plain goat cheese

Garnish: a squeeze of fresh orange juice and a handful of fresh peach-colored rose petals, please be beyond sure that your roses are pesticide free!!

Mix the cinnamon, cardamom, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.

Set aside.

These dear lovely omelettes can be made in a wood-fired oven if you happen to have one going. But you can use a cast iron skillet or a 10 inch nonstick skillet.

Here’s how. Heat the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the almonds. Watch carefully, saute until light brown, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the bowl with the cinnamon sugar, mix well.

Return the skillet to medium high heat and when hot add the beaten eggs with the half and half.

I like to use a fork to push the cooked eggs to the center while the uncooked egg runs to the outside. This achieves a “rumpled carpet” appearance.

When light brown on one side, flip the omelette or turn with a spatula and lightly cook the other side. Spread the orange marmalade over the top surface and sprinkle on the parmesan or spread on the goat cheese. Slide onto a pretty serving plate, and sprinkle with the cinnamon almonds, squeeze on the orange juice and flutter the rose petals over the omelette. Share, using your fingers. Enjoy.
Small Tarts of White Cheese and Sunflower Honey
Oh my goodness, I hope you LOVE these tarts. I found them first in a market in Nice, France – and ever since then, I picture strolling the market when I make them; and bien sur, eat them!

Makes 6 (4 inch) tarts

Filling:
2 cups ricotta, brousse (provencale sheep’s ricotta) or chevre
confectioner’s sugar to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons orange liquer
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Mix a little sugar with the cheese in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, not in a machine. Mix in the vanilla and the orange liquer. Taste and decide whether it needs the cream. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Crust (pasta frolla)
The semolina flour gives the crust a bit of lovely bite. So nice to nibble while you’re strolling in the market.

1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits and well chilled
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup cold water

Place all dry ingredients; flours, sugar, and salt a wide bowl. Mix with a fork. Add the bits of butter and using your hands, rub between your thumbs and other fingers to distribute the butter. Look for the mixture to resemble meal. Dust off your hands and pick up the fork again. Add the yolks, all at once and gently stir with the fork. Drizzle the icey water over and around, just enough, till the dough forms larger clumps. Turn out on a floured surface and form a ball. Refrigerate 30 minutes as is or roll into your tart pan and then refrigerate.

To finish the tart:
Prebaked tart shells
Flavored cheese from above

½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of sunflower honey (or your favorite)

Fill the tart shells with the flavored cheese, sprinkle with chopped walnuts, and drizzle with honey. With one in hand, close your eyes and stroll the market.

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